Free TV licences for over-75s are ending: here’s what to do now

About 5 million people in the UK over the age of 75 are losing their automatic right to a free TV licence and many will have to pay £157.50 a year. But there are some exemptions, a new payment plan for those who find the initial bill too much – and a promise from TV Licensing that you do not have to do anything until it contacts you.

The BBC’s plan was for over-75s to pay from the start of June but this was delayed for two months by the coronavirus outbreak. The new payment regime begins on Saturday 1 August.

How much is it?

The fee is £157.50 a year, payable as a lump sum annually or in weekly, fortnightly or monthly instalments.

There is no extra cost to pay in instalments – you still only pay a total of £157.50 a year. If you choose to pay weekly, the cost is £3.06 for the first payment, then £2.97 a week after that. The fortnightly cost is £5.83 after a higher initial payment and monthly instalments are £13.12 each.

How do I pay?

Visa bank cards
There are various ways to pay for a TV licence. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Alamy

TV Licensing says it will write to all over-75 licence holders starting in August. “This letter will let you know what action you’ll need to take for your next licence,” it says, adding: “We’ll give people plenty of time to set up a payment plan or to apply for a free licence if they are eligible.”

Some people paying for the first time will be worried about popping into the Post Office to pay during the coronavirus pandemic. But you do not have to leave your home to pay the fee. You can make a payment online with your debit or credit card at tvlicensing.co.uk or call the 24/7 payment line on 0300 555 0298 instead.

How do I get a free licence?

Some over-75 households can still obtain a free TV licence. To qualify they need to be receiving pension credit. Pension credit is a benefit for people who are on a low income and have reached the state retirement age, and is paid on top of the state pension. The “guarantee” element of it can top up a single person’s income to £173.75 a week or a couple’s to £265.20. But lots of people fail to apply – it is estimated that of the 1.5 million over-75s eligible, about a third do not receive it.

Pension credit not only entitles you to a free TV licence. Even if you are only receiving a small amount, it may qualify you for help with housing costs and council tax, automatically qualifies you for the cold weather payment and entitles you to claim funeral payments.

AgeUK.org.uk has a useful online guide to pension credit, or call the pension credit claim line on 0800 99 1234.

My mum’s in a care home. Does she have to buy a licence now?

If you are 75 or over and live in a residential care home, you may be covered by an accommodation for residential care (ARC) licence. Under the scheme you will be eligible for a free licence without the need to be in receipt of pension credit. Ask the care home if it has a licence that covers the residents too.

My dad is blind. Does he have to pay?

He will get it for half price. Anyone registered as blind (severely sight impaired) receives a 50% concession. But there is no discount if you are partially sighted.

I just listen to the BBC radio these days. Do I have to buy a licence?

No. Although the first BBC licences, when they were introduced in 1923, were for radio, listeners have been exempt since 1971.

Do I have to get a licence if I only watch Sky Sports and stream films from Netflix?

Action from the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea in July.
Action from the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea in July. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/AFP/Getty Images

You don’t need a TV licence if you only ever use on-demand services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. But if you watch or record any programmes as they are being shown on TV – and that includes any channel, such as Sky, or downloading from BBC iPlayer – then you need to be covered by a TV licence.

The TV Licensing website has a form you can fill in if you do not need to buy a licence.

I’ve been texted to ask for my details to pay – is this real?

No. TV Licensing says it won’t ever text a customer to ask them to set up a payment plan or for their bank details, or to say that they are due a refund. These are all texts sent by scammers, so ignore them. If you have already set up a payment plan, it may text you to ask you to make a payment – log in through the website, rather than clicking on a link to be sure.

Be careful of emails, too. The official messages will include your name and part of your postcode and come from donotreply@tvlicensing.co.uk. As with texts, the safest way to respond is by going directly to the website, rather than clicking on any links you are sent.

Beware of copycat websites. People have in the past been duped into paying extra for their TV licence from sites that purport to be official. Only go to tvlicensing.co.uk.

The Guardian

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